Thumbs Up of the Week: Matt Ryan (v NO)
Matt Ryan has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of 2017 with 18 or fewer fantasy points in every game, but I think he can breakout in the fantasy playoffs. New Orleans has improved defensively this season, but the best quarterbacks they’ve faced have all thrown for multiple touchdown passes against them: Sam Bradford (3), Tom Brady (3), Matthew Stafford (3), Kirk Cousins (3), Jared Goff (2), and Cam Newton (2). Also, star rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore probably won’t be 100% if he plays, so Julio Jones will be a tough cover. I have Ryan as a top-three play in Week 14.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v PHI)
Rams-Eagles should be a phenomenal game this Sunday, as second-year quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz lead the two highest-scoring offenses in the NFL through 13 weeks (each at 30.1 points per game). Both young signal-callers have been great all year, but Goff is getting hot at the right time with 293 yards per game and an 11:2 touchdown-interception ratio over the past five weeks, and Sean McVay should have a good game plan against Philly’s aggressive defense. I think Goff should stay hot in a potential shootout.
Thumbs Up: Alex Smith (v OAK)
What was that everyone said about Alex Smith getting benched last week? Despite another loss for Kansas City, Smith threw for 366 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions, also adding a 70-yard rush in a 37-point fantasy performance. Oakland hasn’t improved defensively since the Chiefs’ quarterback had 342 yards and three touchdowns against them in October, so a confident Smith needs to be in lineups for the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Thumbs Up: Philip Rivers (v WAS)
Still not owned in all fantasy leagues, Philip Rivers is a high-end QB1 for me in Week 14. Outside of a three-interception half against the Chiefs back in September, Rivers has a 21:4 touchdown-interception ratio this season, and he’s fourth in the league in passing yards behind Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Drew Brees. Facing a Redskins team that just allowed 38 points to the previously-dormant Cowboys, there is no reason Rivers shouldn’t be owned and started this week.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Cam Newton (v MIN)
Fantasy owners might not want to bench a guy that can be worth a start based on rushing numbers alone, but if one of the “Thumbs Up” are somehow available in your league, I think it’s worth benching Newton for the first week of the fantasy playoffs. He’s still a low-end QB1 based on the upside, but Cam threw for three interceptions last year against Mike Zimmer’s defense, and Minnesota is currently playing as well as they ever have under Zimmer. Being at home could help, but with Devin Funchess sure to be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes, things could get ugly if Christian McCaffrey is contained as a receiver.
Thumbs Down: Russell Wilson (@ JAC)
Wilson is basically in the same boat as Newton in that he could be worth a start based on what he does as a runner alone, and it would be even more difficult to bench the Seahawks superstar because he’s the number-one fantasy player heading into the playoffs. Based on loyalty alone, I would probably end up playing Wilson in against the Jaguars, but he has a low floor behind a bad offensive line in “Sacksonville,” as they have allowed just 7.7 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.
Thumbs Down: Derek Carr (@ KC)
Kansas City has mostly given Carr troubles since being drafted in 2014, but he was able to explode for 417 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions against them in Week 7. However, that was on Thursday Night Football (where seemingly anything can happen), and despite the Chiefs’ struggles, I think there are safer options than Carr, who is averaging less than 11 fantasy points per game when he doesn’t play on Thursday.
Thumbs Down: Tyrod Taylor (v IND)
It’s unclear if Tyrod will be able to go in Week 14 after leaving early with a knee injury against the Patriots, but even if he does, fantasy owners should look elsewhere. Besides being banged up, my biggest concern is the weather, as Buffalo looks like it could get hit heavy with snow this weekend. Indianapolis is a good matchup, but Taylor is probably also at risk for an in-game benching if he’s active. I’d rather play Jimmy Garoppolo, Brett Hundley, or Jay Cutler.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Rex Burkhead (@ MIA)
I’m not sure what people are waiting for, but Rex Burkhead is still available in 30% of ESPN leagues with the fantasy playoffs set to begin. New England’s free-agent acquisition should be an every-week option down the stretch, and for Week 14, Burkhead needs to be started everywhere as an RB1 with Rob Gronkowski suspended. Already averaging 15 touches and two scores over the past two weeks—including in Week 12 against Miami—Gronk’s absence should undoubtedly keep Burkhead in the 15-touch range in a nice matchup.
Thumbs Up: Kenyan Drake (v NE)
Kenyan Drake exploded last week against Denver with 26 touches for 141 yards and a touchdown, and the talented second-year back will be featured again with Damien Williams (shoulder) out again. New England limited Drake to 20 yards on the ground two weeks ago, but the Alabama product was able to score through the air, and Adam Gase will likely feed him to keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands on Monday night. I like Drake as a high-end RB2 for this week and the entirety of the fantasy playoffs.
Thumbs Up: Jay Ajayi (@ LAR)
This might be risky, but I think Ajayi could be in for his biggest workload yet after handling 12 touches against Seattle. The Eagles knew it was a big NFC clash with the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football, and they have another key matchup against the Rams this Sunday. A loss would potentially knock Philly all the way down to the fourth seed in the conference, so they should give their best runner most of the touches in a potential shootout. The floor is lower than you’d like in the fantasy playoffs, but I have Ajayi as a low-end RB2 this week.
Thumbs Up: Jordan Howard (@ CIN)
Ranked 16th on FantasyPros expert consensus rankings for Week 14, Jordan Howard isn’t someone I’d bet against providing RB1 value over the final four games of the season. Howard has combined for 44 yards on 20 attempts over the past two weeks, but the 23-year-old is a top-tier back, and Cincinnati is a bottom-five run defense, so Sunday looks like a good time for him to break out of his slump.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Leonard Fournette (v SEA)
To know how good Seattle’s defense has been against the run since a poor start to the season, you just need to look at what Philadelphia’s bulldozer of an offensive line did—or didn’t do—last week, as the Seahawks limited Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement to 68 yards on 20 attempts. Leonard Fournette hasn’t been quite the same after returning from his ankle injury with 77 carries for just 226 yards (2.9 yards per carry) since Week 10, and there’s no way he doesn’t face stacked boxes in this matchup. Consider him an RB2.
Thumbs Down: Joe Mixon (v CHI)
A concussion couldn’t have come at a worse time for Joe Mixon, as the rookie handled 43 combined carries over the previous two weeks and was coming off his best game of the season before exiting early on Monday night against Pittsburgh. The Bengals gave Giovani Bernard 13 carries—by far his largest workload of the season—as the every-down back when Mixon left the game, and he turned in a 77-yard performance, showing impressive vision, burst, and power at the end of runs. If Mixon is cleared for the first week of the fantasy playoffs, I wouldn’t trust him as anything more than a FLEX option after looking like a potential RB1/RB2 prior to Week 13.
Thumbs Down: Ameer Abdullah (@ TB)
Like Mixon, Ameer Abdullah also saw a backup perform well in his place after an injury. Abdullah didn’t suit up at all against the Ravens because of a neck injury, and rookie Tion Green got his first career touches in his place, rushing 11 times for 51 yards and a touchdown. Detroit could transform into a full-blown committee down the stretch, so it looks like any hopes of an RB2 finish for Abdullah is gone. Even in a good matchup, he’s a low-floor, low-upside FLEX.
Thumbs Down: C.J. Anderson (v NYJ)
C.J. Anderson got his largest workload since Week 4 in last week’s blowout loss to Miami, but the Denver backfield is too volatile and the offense is too bad for Anderson to be considered a reliable fantasy option on Sunday. With the Broncos at 3-9, it would be a slight surprise if second-year player Devontae Booker doesn’t end up getting more touches to evaluate him for the future. I’d look elsewhere for the fantasy playoffs.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Sammy Watkins (v PHI)
I’ve been saying to look forward to the final quarter of the season for Watkins all year, and I think the talented receiver should help win a lot of fantasy titles for those who have stuck with him. Entering this week’s matchup with the Eagles, Watkins has scored in four of the past five games, and he and Jared Goff continue to build chemistry (remember, Watkins was traded to LA deep into training camp). Philadelphia’s secondary has played well, but they don’t have a cornerback that can cover the former first-round pick. He’s a low-end WR1 for me.
Thumbs Up: Josh Gordon (v GB)
Well, that didn’t take long. In his first game action since 2014, Josh Gordon caught four passes for 85 yards against one of the top cornerback groups in the NFL, and he suddenly looks like a real difference-maker down the stretch. In Week 14, he gets a Packers team that just limited Mike Evans to 33 yards, but even after almost three years away from football, Gordon is a better player than Evans in my opinion, and coverage shaded his way didn’t stop him a few years ago. If he’s somehow on the waiver wire, pickup the 26-year-old and don’t be afraid to start him.
Thumbs Up: Martavis Bryant (v BAL)
A violent block and taunt by JuJu Smith-Schuster in Monday night’s win over Cincinnati earned the rookie a one-game suspension, so Martavis Bryant will be locked in as the clear number-two receiver for the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Pittsburgh being at home is reason enough to make him worth playing as a high-upside FLEX, especially with Baltimore’s top cornerback Jimmy Smith done for the year.
Thumbs Up: Marquise Goodwin (@ HOU)
Marquise Goodwin was an exciting signing in the offseason for the 49ers, and he is quietly on pace for over 900 yards this season with a real chance, in my opinion, to reach 1,000. A literal Olympian athlete, Goodwin is averaging 19.3 yards per reception, but last week against Chicago showed that he isn’t just a one-trick pony, as he caught eight passes for 99 yards in the win. With 82 yards per game over the past four weeks, Goodwin is a quality FLEX for the first week of the fantasy playoffs, particularly in standard leagues.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Devin Funchess (v MIN)
Devin Funchess has been exceptional since taking over as the clear number-one receiver for Carolina, as he’s gone for lines of 5/86, 5/92/2, 7/108, and 4/60/1 since the trade deadline, which is good for nearly 13 fantasy points per game in standard leagues. However, he didn’t have to face Xavier Rhodes at all yet, but that will change on Sunday. Rhodes is either the best or second-best cornerback in the NFL in my opinion, and he just held Julio Jones to 24 yards on two receptions. I don’t think Cam Newton will test him too often in Week 14, so Funchess should be benched.
Thumbs Down: Doug Baldwin (@ JAC)
Doug Baldwin got loose for a 47-yard catch that he nearly scored on in Sunday night’s win over an Eagles that does a good job against opposing slot receivers, but he gets another difficult matchup this week against the Jaguars. And Baldwin won’t get to hide inside like some might be hoping, as Jalen Ramsey followed Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald into the slot a couple weeks ago, and Fitz was limited to a season-worst 12 yards on the day. Barely on pace for 1,000 yards and five touchdowns, Baldwin is a little overrated to begin with in my opinion, and he’s just a FLEX option.
Thumbs Down: DeVante Parker (v NE)
DeVante Parker is definitely not overrated, but he’s been mostly contained since returning from his high-ankle sprain earlier in the year. The monster receiver hasn’t scored since Week 2, and he’s been held to five yards in each of the past two games, including against the Patriots, whom will be his opponent again on Monday night. Parker should see a lot of Stephon Gilmore with help over the top, so even with Jay Cutler under center instead of Matt Moore this time, I wouldn’t count on a big game from the 24-year-old.
Thumbs Down: Ted Ginn (@ ATL)
I also wouldn’t count on a big game from Ted Ginn, as much of his appeal comes from his ability to get behind the defense, but Atlanta is the only team in the league to not allow a reception of 45+ yards this season. With less upside than usual, Ginn has too low of a floor to be trusted on a loaded offense, so he shouldn’t be in lineups for the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Hunter Henry (v WAS)
Hunter Henry already has more yards (501) than he did as a rookie (478), but he hasn’t broken out like I thought he would, which is unfortunate considering his talent. Inconsistent usage is basically the only thing holding him back, as he has at least 73 yards and/or a touchdown in seven games, but has been held to 25 yards or fewer with no touchdowns in the other five games. He’s peaking at the right time, though, as Henry caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving before catching seven passes for 81 yards last week against Cleveland. This week, he gets a Washington team that is one of the worst in the league against opposing tight ends, so the 23-year-old (on Thursday) is a top-three play for me.
Thumbs Up: Cameron Brate (v DET)
Brate went through a stretch with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback where he had just one reception for less than 13 yards in four-straight games, but the Harvard product was a “Thumbs Up” for me last week due to Jameis Winston’s return, and the two wasted no time getting back on track with a couple of scores. Brate has great chemistry with his quarterback, and he should be an every-week TE1 for the fantasy playoffs as long as Winston is on the field.
Thumbs Up: Greg Olsen (v MIN)
Olsen got in a full practice on Wednesday, so it looks like he will suit up this week in a huge matchup against the Vikings. Carolina needs him, too, as Devin Funchess will be occupied by Xaiver Rhodes, so I think Olsen will be Cam Newton’s first read a lot on Sunday. There’s definite risk of an in-game setback again, but I think it might be worth playing Olsen in Week 14.
Thumbs Up: Dwayne Allen (@ MIA)
Dwayne Allen failed to catch a pass earlier this season when Rob Gronkowski was inactive, but he should be a factor on Monday night, as the Dolphins don’t defend the middle of the field well. Also, all of Allen’s receptions this season have come over the past month, so he’s probably getting more comfortable in the offense as we get closer to the playoffs. I’m not expecting a huge game, but fantasy owners could do worse for a streaming option than a guy that will have Tom Brady throwing passes to him.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Vernon Davis (@ LAC)
With Jordan Reed (hamstring) set to miss his sixth-straight game, Vernon Davis will get another start, but he’s suddenly fallen off after a strong middle of the season. From Week 3 to Week 11, the veteran averaged over 64 yards per game, which would have put him over 1,000 on a full-season pace, but since then, Davis has combined for just two receptions for 15 yards in really good matchups against the Giants and Cowboys. The Chargers struggled last week against the position, but overall, they’ve been very stingy against tight ends in 2017, so I’d look elsewhere.
Thumbs Down: Jared Cook (@ KC)
Jared Cook is another veteran tight end that has seen his production fall off over the past two weeks, as in soft matchups with the Broncos and Giants, he combined for just two receptions for 11 yards. Cook was banged up a little in Week 13, but it was still concerning to see Clive Walford have a much better game in the win, and I’m not sure you can trust him for the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Thumbs Down: Charles Clay (v IND)
As I said earlier, it looks like Buffalo could be hit with a snowstorm this weekend, so that would be an obvious downgrade to the passing attacks on both sides. Charles Clay is already banged up like his quarterback, so besides LeSean McCoy, I would avoid the entire offense altogether.
Thumbs Down: O.J. Howard (v DET)
People got way ahead of themselves when O.J. Howard had a a couple of good games with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but caught just one pass for 17 yards in Jameis Winston’s return. The rookie doesn’t need to be owned in redraft leagues, as his role is too volatile for the fantasy playoffs.
For defense and kicker advice—and all your start/sit decisions—check out our full Week 14 rankings, and good luck to those in the fantasy playoffs.